“Railroading stitches” is a phrase popularized by the cross stitchers on UseNet in the late 90s. It refers to making the strands of floss in your stitches lay parallel to each other as if they were railroad tracks. Specifically, it does this without using a laying tool (we’ll talk about those nifty tools later…).
If I am only using two strands of thread, I find railroading the stitches is often easier than pulling out a laying tool and fussing with it. If you don’t work with your stitching in a floor or table stand, it can save you a lot of work.
Railroading Stitches Step by Step
Bring your thread up from the back of the fabric as usual.
- Lay it in the direction of the stitches and stroke the threads so they lie side by side.
- Push your needle down between the threads and into the fabric.
- Pull your stitch taut.
The procedure for railroading stitches is the same no matter what direction they go, or what hand you are using: begin the stitch, stroke the threads into lines, and plunge your needle between the strands and into the fabric to complete your stitch.
This technique really only works in limited situations:
When you are stitching in the family of straight stitches: cross stitch, herringbone, fern stitch, satin stitch, split stitch etc.
- When you have two strands in the needle. While you can approximate the results with more strands, to truly railroad stitches and get the best results, you need to have only two strands – one for each track.
Try it! If you don’t already do this, you may find that your finished stitching looks cleaner and reflects the light better. If you always use a laying tool, you may find that this method is sometimes easier than getting it out. Let me know in the comments what your results were!